Sunday, 24 February 2013

Go to Jail

And so we reach another corner of the board and one of the most iconic of all the Monopoly squares, “Go to Jail”. Whilst some of the squares have caused problems when trying to think of a suitable place to visit, (Water Works springs to mind here), this one was a real no-brainer. Just consider any newsworthy criminal case and you’ll have an image of some news reporter standing outside of the Old Bailey whilst someone who’s just won their trial comes out arms aloft from the court rooms. Those who aren’t so fortunate and get to “go to jail” aren’t seen of course.

Setting the scene.

But before we describe the actual visit, a couple of bits of exciting beer and pub news:
When I started getting into the beer blogging scene one of the first people I came into contact with was a young chap by the name of Nathaniel Southwood. Now Nate, or NateDawg has been mentioned on this blog before but just as a word of explanation, I think most people in the beer blogging world know Nate. He’s certainly not shy in his opinions (I mean his twitter account has the descriptive line “Sublimely self-righteous arrogant bastard”) and he frequently uses Twitter and his blog to generally get sweary about beer. But all that said I’ve never actually met the person behind the swears. But as luck would have it, he informed me that he was down in London for a craft beer festival and asked if it would be possible for him to join the tour. Seeing as the only criteria I have for coming on the tour is that you at least try beer this also was a no-brainer.
I do have to mention that when I told the rest of the tour that Nate was coming along they split into two camps; one being one that were convinced that I was on some sort of internet blind date and was possibly on a promise. The other being that Nate would turn out to be a stalking internet cannibal type and we’d all end up with various bits of us being boiled in a cauldron. I guess only time would tell!
The other bit of news was that when organising this week’s tour I’d planned to end up at the Viaduct Tavern on Newgate Street and further reading about this pub revealed that it was built near to the site of the old Newgate Jail (which is where the Old Bailey now stands) and in their cellars were actual original holding cells. And further good news told me that the pub was pleased to show the cells to interested visitors. I got in touch with the pub and exchanged emails which a nice lady called Carina who said it would be no trouble to show us the cells.
Still from the "Murder on the Victorian Railway" program. The Viaduct Tavern is on the left.
Then in a twist of coincidence I was watching a BBC2 program this week called Murder on the Victorian Railway, all about the very first murderon the railways lines. The program started and finished with an old Victorian photo of Newgate prison and there in the corner one can see the very same Viaduct Tavern. Add to this I’d also quite innocently said in passing to Gemma that she should encourage the girls to all wear stripes (like a cartoon burglar – not like a tiger or something) and later found out that they were actually going to do so. (See, you can’t trust these women who keep a box of fancy dress odds and ends in the office.) So just to make sure I wasn’t caught out I bought myself a mask and a stripy shirt of my own. The mask cost £6.50! Seriously, the shop owner should have put it on when he rang it through the till!
So onto the tour, which was off to a slow start as once again we were left waiting for the tarting up of both the ladies and Spiky Haired Ed leaving the BGC beeping his mental car horn in the foyer of the offices. I should take a quick moment to do a roll call before going any further; regulars Aussie Pete, Charlie, Buddy Rob and the aforementioned Ed were all aboard and making a welcome third appearance was Gemmaration Game and a second appearance for Jackanory Nicole. But there were three new caps as Gemma’s recruiting drive had once again worked wonders, signing up Carole, Lucie and Isabelle. (Seriously, I’ve had it with the stupid nicknames – When I introduced NateDawg someone actually asked me what his nickname was going to be. Yeah, hello, NateDawg, it’s in the name yeah?)
Anyway with NateDawg already trying to ring me we were finally on course with a short tube ride to Blackfriars and a walk past one of our earlier victories the Blackfriar pub. On this occasion though we were going a little further down Queen Victoria Street and taking a sharp left hand turn into St Andrew’s Hill and the first pub of the evening, the very curiously named Shaws Booksellers. The name apparently comes from the Merchant-Ivory adaption of 'The Wings of the Dove' where the pub was dressed as a booksellers………………yeah, I’m no wiser as well!
Outside Shaws Booksellers - Still don't know what that's all about.
As we’ve come to expect on most evenings now, the place was rammed full and claiming a free space to stand for the 10 of us was not easy. What was easier though was getting served especially as the order was pretty easy, 7 pints of London Pride (yep, the girls had upgraded to pints) which meant there was only Buddy Rob on his second choice of Peroni, Spiky Haired Ed on a less well known Czech larger, Litovel and Lucie on the cider. I did make an effort to ask the barmaid about the Cask Marque certificate but again it was one of those moments where I was speaking one language and barmaid just wasn’t listening.
Meeting of two great beer minds - I'm on the right!
I then got back in touch with Nate and discovered that he was in the pub next door, not that it took him long to finally find us and join Ed on the Litovel. Swift introductions were made and I think the group’s fears were generally put at ease and none of us would be waking up in a ditch minus our livers. Nate actually turned out to be quite a softly spoken mild mannered chap with no sign of his ranting twitter persona although there were a couple of whispered swears placed into the conversation.
Deciding not to linger at Shaw’s Booksellers we took the quick walk up Creed Lane and crossed Ludgate Hill (look right for a great view of St Paul’s Cathedral) to the second pub of the night, the Taylor Walker owned Ye Olde London.
This time the ladies secured a couple of tables by the windows whilst I, ably assisted by Nate put in the order from the rather harassed and overworked barman, struggling to keep things running all on his own. The order was quite simple again though, 7 pints of Woodfordes Wherry (more on that later) Lucie swapped with Isabelle on the cider role, Nate had a very cold pint of Guinness, Rob got his bottle of Bud and Ed had a pint of something yellow.
I was quite happy with the Woodfordes Wherry, not a drink you see that often (although quite often in Taylor Walker places) but it wasn’t going down at all well with the girls. Watery was the most heard complaint and Nate backed up this feeling by explaining how this was the beer he cut his ale drinking teeth on, but one he has now happily left behind. Rob and Ed had escaped to the downstairs bar where there was not only a pool table but also the Cask Marque certificate, meaning all us scanners had to go down to scan but then rush back up to get a signal to register the scan. Still it worked and Nate managed to break his Cask Finder duck.
Leaving Ye Olde London - I told Nicole her coat would clash with the pub but whould she listen.....
Leaving the pub after the mandatory photos, it was the very next right turn into Old Bailey itself and after walking up the street past the Central Criminal Court I pointed out the church of St Sepulchre which according to the BBC2 program was where the public gallows were. And did you know that in the children’s nursery rhyme when the “bells of Old Bailey” are mentioned – It is these church bells they’re referring to. And there opposite the church was our final port of call the Viaduct Tavern.
The lovely Carina - organiser of all amazing pub things.
My book of “London’s Best Pubs” describes the Viaduct as having a ceiling of “ornate lincrusta” which is a mix of pressed paper and linseed oil, a fact I explained to Charlie but I don’t think he believed me. Anyway, whatever the ceiling is made from it’s certain a lovely pub and one that it’s good to see is flourishing in the hands of Fullers. It was pints of Seafarers all around and I was delighted to learn that the barmaid serving me was none other than the very Carina who I’d been emailing with. So this is the first pub where the tour had been welcomed and recognised, but more importantly she told us that there’d been a chap along shortly to show us around the cells.

Charlie and Nicole share a joke at my expense whilst the lincrusta ceiling goes unnoticed.

Whilst all this was going on, the rest of the scanners were desperately trying to scan the certificate which they’d found on the bar of the bar hatch. Thing was, this was an expired certificate and therefore wouldn’t scan. After several attempts at scanning Nate decided that perhaps it might be time to call it a day and who could blame him after drinking all day at the beer festival and then having to put up with us lot.
Sadly this meant he missed the tour of the cells which was next on the agenda. The bar chappy split us into two groups so firstly it was the blokes who descended the steep cellar steps into the basement. Obviously this is a working pub so it’s pretty understandable that the pub is using the cells as storage but there is one cell still with the ironwork in place, splitting the cell into the separate chambers for each prisoner. Although very interesting and quite a privilege to see such a thing, grim is about the most appropriate word for it. Us chaps then retired back to the bar (for a sneaky round) whilst the girls took their tour in the cells.
Dodgey character found lurking in the cells.
The evening then turned rather odd as the beers started to make their present felt. Firstly there were all sorts of fun and games with the mask as it was passed around. I never knew Charlie had such amateur dramatic tendencies as he put on a very convincing act of trying to pick Gemma’s handbag.
Oh the fun you can have with £6.50
Lucie seemed determined to find food of some sort and the offer of crisps and nuts from the bar didn’t seem to be hitting the right notes. I tried to cheer her up with some schoolboy French but apparently being able to ask when the tourist information centre is, is no substitute for hunger so it was probably just as well that Isabelle interrupted proceedings with a shriek as she spotted her daughter in the pub.
The evening then for a moment became a very strange version of “This is your life” as various friends of her daughters were wheeled in to meet us all – “And here, you’ve never met him in your life before is Greg who used to be at uni with your daughter’s boyfriend! He used to study economics but dropped out and is now running a pet shop and you’ve never seen him ever ever ever, it’s Ben the pet shop man!”
There was also a very strange moment where I seemed to be encouraging Carole to tell me to “Feck Off!” in a rather abusive manner. In fact the more abusive, the more I seemed to enjoy it. Whether this says more about me or more about Carole’s willingness to curse and swear I’m really not sure – Perhaps I should introduce her to Nate – Oh I already did, didn’t I.

Poor Rob! And Gemma, if your looking for Ed's manly was stolen by that bloke in the mask.

Finally I remember the end of the evening finished (honestly it seemed to go on forever this time and the kitty never seemed to get any smaller – it was one of the cheapest nights on the tour) with me adopting another scarf, black this time, and there is photographic proof of this, but I also remember Ed chasing after me after I left and retrieving something. The scarf never made it home anyway – I did though, just, but it was touch and go especially when I thought travelling masked on the tube might be a laugh………on my own. I’m a sad little man.
Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited  = 156
Best night so far? = Oh it’s got to be up there with them. Worth it for the mask pictures alone.
Hangover? = Do you know what, none at all! It must have been the coffee and fruit cake from Tutti Frutti in Reading station. They got to see the mask as well!
Next Stop = Regent Street

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